Always Be My Baby My mother told me she screamed for my grandmother when I took my very first steps; overcome with pride that I was progressive and striving to be independent. I was just nine months old then. 40 plus years later she seemed just as excited when I got up after my last procedure, leaned on my cane and started to walk hesitantly towards the exit.
My mother has been by my side after every procedure designed to restore regular function to my legs. In fact, she’s been there as I waited for biopsy results, had my stomach repaired, woke up from hemorrhaging, and countless other medical trials. Each time, she looked at me with her soft brown eyes with a mix of concern and comfort.
For three days after I left the Hospital for Special Surgery, my mother waited on me hand and foot. She rushed to my side every morning and evening as I groaned and grunted every time I tried to rise out of the bed or up from a chair. She dressed me and undressed me, putting on my pants and my shoes just like she did when I was an infant. She even helped me go to the bathroom because I couldn’t sit down on the toilet on my own. I was embarrassed by my inability to care for myself but I was also grateful. I was thankful someone, especially my mother was by my side when I needed another person.
Yet, I couldn’t help think it should be me taking care of her. Isn’t that how the cycle of life goes? As your parents age you care for them, not the other way around? I kept thinking I should be able to do this by myself. Unfortunately though, my autoimmune condition makes that impossible or at least too difficult to fully care for myself right now. I looked over at my mother, napping on the sofa at ten pm and thought, in my time of weakness my mother, my constant companion, is here again.
I was overcome with guilt as I headed off to work for Thursday morning, the fourth day after my procedure. My mother stood at the door, watching nervously as I climbed into the new vehicle I purchased, at least partially because its collapsible seats will allow room for a wheelchair should I need one. I waved to her as I pulled out of the space, leaning forward so I didn’t squish the two wounds on my back from my procedure.
I realized as I made it to the highway that my mother was afraid to leave me afraid of my being at home by myself. I knew she could’ve been at home with my father, especially since she just retired. But, rather than enjoying her time off after nearly 50 years behind a desk, my mother insisted, refused to leave my home until she knew I was OK.
The first day, I came home from work early. I didn’t expect much. I was stunned when I opened the door and smelled food. She had dinner waiting for me. As if that wasn’t good enough, my mother remembered how I hate for my food to touch so she found a divider plate to keep each item hot and separate.
On Friday, when I got ready to go to work I fully expected my mother to say she was going home. I thought I done enough to fool her to make her think that I was OK. But, she’s my mother. My mother didn’t believe me and she would’ve been right. By the time I got to the parking garage across the street from work I was already achy. Still, I hobbled down the street and I made it to my desk. As lunchtime approached, I realized I was going to have to go home early for a second day. I had to submit one more day. I had to admit that I wasn’t quite 100%. My coworker, Erin, helped me carry things, including book bags to stuff for children living in shelters, to my car. As I piled inside, I waved goodbye and I was overcome with the amount of pain shooting up my back. Still, I smiled and I pulled off. I stopped at the next light, glad it was red, so I could catch my breath.
It took me two hours to get home and when I arrived I marveled at how my mother had reorganized my living room and items stacked in my bedroom. She’d helped me get everything straight that I’d been unable to reach because I could barely stretch, bend or reach to put it away or file; that was more than I could’ve expected from anyone and my mother did it so freely without me even having to ask.
Later that night, I took my mother out to dinner. It wasn’t much, meaning not a fancy place, but it was my small way to say thank you. As we talked, joked, laughed and watched the wait staff dance, I thought about the story she told me couple of days earlier.
My mother and my father have been desperately trying to enjoy their retirement but being on a fixed income is major adjustment. The home that they raised my youngest brother in, my nephew frequented, and that the site of countless family barbecues was now too much for them. It wasn’t just a burden financially, the upkeep like shoveling on snowy days, mowing the grass, and general maintenance was exhausting.
My mother told me she and my dad were ready to move. And, quite honestly, I was ready for them to move because I felt like they deserve a break; to live without worrying about real estate taxes, landscaping and growing commuting costs. Then, she said it. The words that tore apart my heart. She and my father thought about selling their home and moving away a year from now but they couldn’t bring themselves to do it. Why? Because of me. Because of the way I am. Because I’m single. Because I need someone to care for me. And, because they want to make sure that they’re within close proximity should I ever need help.
As the words left her mouth, they confirmed by greatest fear: my illness had not only stolen some of my dreams but their hope for the future, as well. I thought to myself, that’s not how it’s supposed to be. I was supposed to give back to them all that they imparted to me. I should be there for them physically, financially and emotionally. Who would care for me, as a single person, if I didn’t have my parents? Where would I live because I can’t get along in my townhouse alone sometimes? Will I ever find someone, anyone who will be there for me the way that my parents have been and will I ever be able to be there for them. Yet, this is a situation we were in.
I fought back my tears until I was alone in my room that Friday night. I thought about the sacrifice that my parents once again made for me. And, as soon as I thought about it I remembered the other thing my mother said. I was there baby. No matter how old I get I will always be their baby. For that reason, they would never leave my side no matter what circumstance arise. Knowing that, I am eternally humbled and honored to know how blessed I am to have my parents. I also resolved that someday soon the tables will turn and I will repay my mother and father for all that they have given to me.
About the author:
Nika C. Beamon is s TV journalist working in NY. She is the author of the memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House, about her 17 years quest to get the correct medical diagnosis. In 2009, Chicago Review Press published her non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married. She’s also the author of two mystery novels. #BlackHealthMatters #BlackDoctors #Healthcare Women #BlackVoices Health Gap